Fine Print

Strategies for maximizing frequent flier credit card points

The best strategies for getting a free airline ticket with the help of your airline rewards or frequent flier credit card boil down to seeking out all the incentives that have been created for specific airlines and their partners, including those provided by your airline credit card issuer.

Compare Airline Credit CardsAirline credit cards basically come in two flavors: Either a card is issued in partnership with a specific airline, or is a generic miles card where the miles earned can be used on numerous airlines.

Airline-specific rewards credit cards tend to offer special incentives in conjunction with their hotel and rental car partners, allowing you to earn significantly more miles if you put those purchases on your credit card. Packaged vacation deals are another area where cardholders can rack up significant miles and get past that average 25,000 mile threshold to earn a free ticket. The also tend to charge an annual fee.

Generic airline and frequent flier credit cards offer the advantage of being able to use the miles accumulated on any airline. When using a generic airline card, the bank actually takes the cash value of your miles (approximately 1 cent to 2 cents per mile) and purchases a discount ticket on any airline you choose.

Once you reach a mileage redemption threshold (say 20,000 miles) and wish to book a flight, the bank will convert your earnings into cash value and buy the ticket through a travel booking agency. The availability of discounted fares on the dates you wish to travel may be limited, but at least you can choose any airline.

The quickest route to free travel is to fly as often as possible and charge the tickets on your airline rewards credit card, since this can potentially generate tens of thousands of miles in a year. Business travelers are able to leverage this activity at no personal cost and tend to be the recipients of the most free travel awards (assuming they want to get back on an airplane after all that work-related travel).

Leisure travelers can also take advantage of everyday spending opportunities such as charging groceries, gasoline and setting up automatic recurring payments on their card to add up their miles.

What’s up next?

In Fine Print

FAQs about airline frequent flier credit cards

Get your questions answered and learn about the benefits of owning an airline rewards credit card.

Published: July 21, 2005

See more stories
Credit Card Rate Report Updated: August 14th, 2019
Cash Back

Questions or comments?

Contact us

Editorial corrections policies

Learn more

Join the Discussion

We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful. For your safety, do not disclose confidential or personal information such as bank account numbers or social security numbers. Anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

The editorial content on is not sponsored by any bank or credit card issuer. The journalists in the editorial department are separate from the company’s business operations. The comments posted below are not provided, reviewed or approved by any company mentioned in our editorial content. Additionally, any companies mentioned in the content do not assume responsibility to ensure that all posts and/or questions are answered.